I didn’t get back into town until late last night, so there wasn’t time for me to put together the usual Sunday Night Feast. Unfortunately, I was stuck ordering some flavorless Lo Mein delivery from Lee’s Golden Buddha (Damn you Hunan Gourmet for not delivering past Chastain!!). But I do have some pics from a smoked pork belly that I threw together a few weeks back, so I figured I’d go ahead and take care of my first Sunday Feast recipe post.
About a month ago I noticed that the folks at the New York Butcher Shoppe in Sandy Springs had some fresh slabs of pork belly out, so I picked some up knowing I would find an excuse to use it sooner than later. For those of you that live in the Buckhead/Sandy Springs area, I highly recommend checking the NY Butcher Shoppe out….I doubt I’ll purchase meats elsewhere from now on.
After thawing out the 2+ lbs of belly and scoring the skin/fat layer, I marinated it overnight in a mixture of Dale’s liquid steak seasoning, bourbon, and spices (details below).
Because I don’t have a Big Green Egg, or comparable smoker, I usually just use my old school Weber kettle grill, set up for indirect heat/smoking. It requires a lot more babysitting than an Egg, but it gets the job done none the less. After tinkering with the heat and getting it to between 220-250 degrees, I threw the pork directly on, skin side up. I used a mix of Hickory and Mesquite chips/chunks for the smoke. This wasn’t really a calculated move, I just happen to have a half bag of each on hand. I left the meat on for 3-3.5 hours.
Due to some problems with the chips catching fire, I had some temperature control issues along the way. I’d run inside for a beer and come out to find the inside of the smoker completely consumed in flames. When this finally came off, the skin was not at all what I wanted…it was way too tough, and basically inedible. I blame the flare-ups. That was easily remedied by slicing the skin off and leaving the fat layer to keep the flavor, but it didn’t have that crispy, delicious pork belly skin I’m used to. If you can control the temp better than I did, this shouldn’t be a problem for you. Fortunately, the rest of the meat had a nice caramelized crust to it, so the texture contrast was still somewhat intact.
While the pork was cooling, I got working on the caramelized figs. Using very ripe figs, I cut each into quarters without cutting all the way through the skin, and then pulled them open. Each fig was sprinkled with roughly 1/4 tablespoon of sugar and drizzled with a little vanilla extract to taste. I placed the figs on the top rack under the broiler (about 3-4 inches from the heat) for around 4 minutes, or until the sugar started to brown.
Once the pork had cooled I carved each serving into 3-4 thin slices and plated each with one of the figs and a swath of balsamic glaze (store bought). You don’t want to let the meat cool too much and you want to serve immediately, as the pork loses heat quickly when sliced thin.
It wasn’t until after I had served them that I realized that my plating resembled a wonky-eyed smiley face, but I don’t think anyone minded too much!
This was definitely a crowd pleaser. The pork/balsamic/fig combination is classic, and this is a sure-fire winner. Of course, slow cooked pork belly is tough not to like, right?
Smoked Pork Belly w/ Caramelized Figs and Balsamic Glaze
1 2lb slab of uncured pork belly
1/4 cup bourbon
2/3 cup Dale’s or other soy based marinade
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 teaspoons red chili flakes
BBQ pork rub (enough to cover the meat) – use whatever blend you like…mine included some brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, onion powder, and black pepper.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves chopped garlic
Mesquite or Hickory wood chips
12 ripe black or brown figs
3-4 tablespoons sugar (to taste)
Vanilla extract (to taste)
Score the skin of the pork belly in a criss-cross pattern, cutting through the fat layer, but not through the meat. Cover the entire pork belly with the BBQ rub, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Mix together the ingredients for the marinade, seal in a large ziplock bag with the pork and refrigerate overnight.
Set up your grill/smoker for indirect heat at 200-250 degrees and smoke for 3-4 hours.
While the pork cools, split the figs into quarters, leaving the skin attached at the base. Sprinkle each fig with the sugar and drizzle with vanilla extract. Place under a broiler on high for 3-4 min., or until browning.
Once slightly cooled, thinly slice the pork, plate with the fig and balsamic glaze, and serve immediately.
Serves: 10-12 appetizer portions
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